By Nick Mathews
10:39 PM EST, November 25, 2009
Apparently, retirement is the answer for Allen Iverson.
For now anyway.
Iverson — who starred on the Peninsula at Bethel High and with Boo Williams’ AAU program and will one day be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame — announced his plans to retire from the NBA on Wednesday.
The decision — published on stephena.com, the web site of syndicated radio personality and Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Stephen A. Smith — comes after Iverson failed to sign with a team following his Nov. 17 release from the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I would like to announce my plans to retire from the National Basketball Association,” wrote Iverson, a 10-time all-star, a four-time scoring champion and the 2001 NBA MVP. “I still have tremendous love for the game, the desire to play, and a whole lot left in my tank. I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level.”
That bittersweet beginning to his statement appears to leave open the possibility of a short retirement, should a team be interested in signing him. But he contradicted those statements quickly.
“Stepping away from the game will allow me to spend quality time with my wife and kids,” wrote Iverson, nicknamed “The Answer.”
“This is a reward that far exceeds anything that I’ve ever achieved on the basketball court. I have prayed for this day, and I see it as my greatest gift.”
Williams, who led Iverson and teammates to a 17-and-under AAU national title in 1992, isn’t sure this is the end of Iverson’s career. “Interesting,” Williams said after being read Iverson’s 415-word announcement. “It sounds like a guy that didn’t want to retire.
“When you read that, you will say he will come back if the right option will present itself. But the question is, will the right option present itself?”
The 6-foot Iverson, who averaged 27.0 points during his NBA career (sixth-best all-time), starred for Georgetown, was the No. 1 overall pick by Philadelphia in 1996 and played 10 full seasons with the 76ers — highlighted by the MVP award and an NBA Finals appearance in 2001. He was traded to Denver in 2006 and then to Detroit last November.
Iverson signed with the Grizzlies during the off-season but played in just three games before an indefinite leave of absence on Nov. 7 to deal with a personal issue. The 34-year-old guard played only three games with Memphis, all in California. He averaged 12.3 points and 22.3 minutes coming off the bench.
It was the second straight ugly ending for Iverson, who was unhappy last season playing for the Pistons. He was upset that Detroit coach Michael Curry and Memphis’ Lionel Hollins used him as a reserve.
“There is no greater competitor I have been associated with,” Williams said of Iverson. “I can’t see him wanting to come off the bench. He didn’t want to come off the bench as a little boy. That isn’t changing.”
Williams didn’t like what he saw in the last couple of stops for Iverson.
“That was a fiasco in Detroit,” Williams said. “And the Memphis thing was a miscommunication. I don’t know what was expected from him. But they weren’t on the same page. That’s just me on the outside looking in.”
After his release from Memphis, Iverson was considered by other teams, most seriously the New York Knicks. However, the Knicks passed on signing Iverson, leading to Wednesday’s news.
“I have enjoyed 13 wonderful seasons in the NBA,” Iverson wrote on the Web site, “and I am grateful.”
If this is the end, Williams didn’t see Wednesday as a sad day.
“Talk about a guy who had a great career,” Williams said. “I think now he can move on. But, I think in his heart, he thinks he can still play on a day-to-day basis.”
Coaches in the league agree with Williams that Iverson’s career may continue.
“I think he still has something left to give some team out there,” said George Karl, who coached Iverson in Denver. “If that’s his decision, he’ll go down in history, I think, as the greatest little guard ever to play the game of basketball.
“I was happy to have him for a couple years, and hopefully our paths will cross. But I have a sneaky feeling that somewhere along the way, an injury or a circumstance with a team will open that window back up.”
Added Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers: “I don’t ever believe anyone retires until they get to the point they have to. He had a great career if it is true, but I still think he has more to offer.”
While on the Peninsula, Iverson was a two-sport star. In his junior year, he led the Bruins to the 1992 Division 5 state football championship as a quarterback and safety, and to the 1993 Group AAA basketball title. The Associated Press named Iverson the Group AAA player of the year in both sports.
In the summer before his junior year, Iverson led Williams’ team to a national title.
During the national tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C., Williams said that Iverson had three straight games in which he scored at least 30 points — before halftime.
“That’s going to be something I will remember for a long time,” Williams said. “Of all the guys we’ve ever had, that is one of my fondest memories.”
In his statement, Iverson looked back to the beginning of his career.
“To my high school coach, Michael Bailey, Coach John Thompson at Georgetown University, Coach Larry Brown (with the 76ers) and to all of my other coaches, teammates, administrators, owners and staff who’ve been a part of my career, thank you as well,” he wrote.
“I’d like to give a special thanks to the people of Memphis. I never played a home game for your beloved Grizzlies, but I want you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity given me by a great owner in Michael Heisley, and the support of the city. I wish the Memphis Grizzlies’ organization all of the success that the game has to offer.
“And finally, to the city of Philadelphia: I have wonderful memories of my days in a Sixers’ uniform. To Philly fans, thank you. Your voice will always be music to my ears.”
He closed: “God Bless all of you, Allen Iverson.”
If this is the end for Iverson, it’s not the one Williams expected. Nor wanted.
“I’m a little shocked,” Williams said. “I’m a little disappointed that it ended the way it ended. He would have liked to end on a better note.
“But he can’t be discouraged. He’s had a great career.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2009, Newport News, Va., Daily Press